Wham Bam, Thank You Sam

Sunday, 5 May 2024

You may be surprised to hear that I’ve never written a film.

But if it’s like writing a column, I’d imagine you’d already have an idea of what you wanted to centre it around, a mic drop moment a mind, and then figure the rest out around that.

Well, this was going to be a piece focusing John Eustace’s claim that Rovers securing their Championship status would be a success and me making light of that with the view that the only thing to celebrate was seeing the back of this God-awful season.

While the sentiment remains, for Eustace, the final day couldn’t have worked out any better.

Here was me, and I would expect many others, believing that Rovers’ fate would be secured by the failure of those around them to secure their end of the bargain, only for Eustace to go and mastermind a final day victory at champions Leicester City, with Rovers’ goal coming only moments after that of Birmingham City left them in the severest jeopardy of dropping into the bottom three for the first time this season.

How ironic too it was the team that had deemed him surplus to requirements only back in October that would suffer the fateful trap door when the conclusion of 46 games was up?

Here is where I’m at. Birmingham cited a desire for ‘no fear football’, amid praise for Eustace stabilising the club during a tricky period in his 15 months in charge, when publishing a statement upon his departure.

While many have ridiculed that decision upon Blues’ relegation, having witnessed Rovers under Eustace, I do understand the sentiment behind the decision (I just wouldn’t have then appointed Wayne Rooney).

If Rovers were feeling brave, maybe they would do something similar (not the Rooney bit).

Though it is without any question that Eustace will get the chance to shape Rovers how he wants, and wins at Leeds United and Leicester City, particularly in the circumstances, are worthy of significant acknowledgement.

His statistics can be shaped any which way you want to support your argument be that in favour of against. Only five defeats in 17 matches and six clean sheets, or four wins from 17 and seven times failing to score. Argue your case either way.

What would be farfetched is to spin this as some sort of final day escape. Rovers were 18th and five points above the dropzone when Eustace was appointed and finished 19th and three points above the dropzone, with a virtually identical points-per-game (with some element of ‘steadying the ship’ factored in).

*The above all include Stoke City as Eustace being in charge of the team, by the way.

He spoke after the Leicester win about a change of culture needing to be instilled upon his arrival, and if that is the case, then it’s something I’d want to hear more of, because the feeling I’ve had following from afar is that the club has slipped into a lull of mediocrity, which made his comment about avoiding relegation as something worth celebrating as quite alarming.

Maybe that’s due to him only being at the club for three months, and why Hayden Carter hit the nail more on the head that this season had been one of underperformance, speaking on behalf of the players who’d been there from the start.

Eustace has touched on ‘if we can…’ when referencing doing things in the transfer window, even that of what would surely only be a formality of extending Kyle McFadzean’s deal, a far cry from Jon Dahl Tomasson who actively challenged the club to make positive strides in that department.

While blame can be apportioned in numerous directions for Rovers’ plight, the buck stops at the top, an uncertainty over the ownership has clouded the whole club, one that feels as far away from Premier League ready as it has for some time.

There won’t be many supporters with faith that a narrow escape of relegation back to third tier, seven years on from the previous time at Brentford, will be the catalyst for change.

All I would ask of the club is that the messaging is consistent, honest, and at least giving some stem of optimism rather than a feeling of getting by and making do that has swept through the club during the season.


I can’t finish without a mention of the Championship’s golden boot winner, and all-round top man, Sam Szmodics.

It has felt as though he’s been playing through the pain barrier for half a season, yet a return of 27 goals in 44 appearances for a team which narrowly escaped the drop is a phenomenal achievement.

I will hold my hands up to the fact that I thought he lacked that zip of pace Rovers needed when he arrived some 21 months ago, and didn’t initially see how he would fit in.

But having watched him develop over the last 18 months, after a tricky bedding in period, he’s encapsulated everything I want from a Rovers player.

A grafter, rarely misses a game, gives his all, cares for the cause, and plays with personality.

The latter is a fate I really feel this squad has lacked, big characters have departed and not been replaced, and that, not to mention the fact he’s scored virtually every week, has seen Szmodics come to the fore so much.

In a forgettable season, his contribution certainly won’t be.

While I would never wish a player of his quality to leave the club, turning 29 at his next birthday and with the potential of Premier League riches coming his way, I’d wish him nothing but the best if that call is to come.


In Rovers’ last 13 games in all competitions, they have scored 13 goals. Ten of those have come from Sam Szmodics. It was fitting it he was that saw Rovers over the line. In truth, it had to be him.

It is without doubt the club has issues to address, but the most imperative thing is those can be done as a Championship club. The alternative would have been catastrophic



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